Saturday, February 21, 2009

Leisure Suited

Literary week continues here at Nobody Walks in LA, with yet another book about a hopeful outsider showing up in our city, seeking out the various temptations he's heard so much about via media stereotypes. It's called Death by Leisure: A Cautionary Tale, and this time it's a Brit, which should shock no one considering the wild n' wooly LA cliches that get imported over there. And the author, journalist Christopher Ayres, is apparently kind of a jerk, according to LA Times:

Growing up in dreary England, his American Dream was a lifestyle, exemplified by the film "Wall Street"; Ayres loved everything about the movie except the ending. "Disappointed? I almost put my foot through the TV screen," Ayres writes. "I was completely on Gordon Gekko's side."

So of course:

Filled with hopeful avarice, Ayres moved to Hollywood as a correspondent for the Times of London. Unlike better British writers before him (Ayres cites Evelyn Waugh and Martin Amis as role models), he arrived in our fair city in pursuit of fast cars, faster women and immediate fame.

And here we get the self-fulfilling prophecy of LA stereotypes: Self-absorbed greedy narcissist hears rumors that we've got vices that appeal to their sort, so they end up moving here and increasing the self-absorbed greedy narcissist percentage of the population. Meanwhile, those of us born and raised here never undertook that particular journey, and consequently are just normal people living in a major metropolitan city.

As would tend to happen when someone relocates to another country based purely on airy promises and fictional characters, Ayres' journey doesn't go well:

Addicted to conspicuous consumerism large and small, Ayres becomes dependent on gourmet take-out and spray tans, abusing the free market system with reckless spending and risky debt. ... Thousands of dollars in the hole, Ayres falls into a "Desperate Period," where spending more buys progressively less. A seemingly inevitable road trip to Las Vegas sees Ayres at the blackjack table, hitting on 19 over and over again, always busting, perhaps a rather too-apt metaphor for his economic dereliction.

And there you go. A chastened Ayres apparently is still here (he's still got the Hollywood correspondent gig, at least), so his story doesn't have the usual "escape from LA" ending. What it does have, however, is a big fat Los Angeles cliche right on the friggin' cover:

The city's aflame! So, Chris Ayres, although I don't think I'd like you much, I do thank you -- for no other reason than the opportunity to use my new Los Angeles is Burning tag another time. Cheers!


Jesse Walker said...

a) I walk in L.A. all the time
b) If you read the book you'd realize that it's not a satire of the L.A. cliche lifestyle
c) Who's the L.A. cliche by judging a book by it's cover? hmmmm...

Mabel Normand said...

Hi Jesse:

1. We walk in LA all the time too. Please read more of our blog and you'll see that it's about LA cliches as perpetuated by the media. We purposely picked the most untrue Los Angeles stereotype we knew of for our name.

2. I didn't say the book was a satire of the LA cliche lifestyle anywhere in my post. It doesn't sound satirical at all. But the writer was definitely lured out here from England by the perception he had of Los Angeles, much of which was quite stereotypical ("fast cars, faster women and immediate fame").

3. You're absolutely correct. I don't like the cover. It's cliched.

Chris said...

Dear Mabel, Not reading a book but selectively quoting from someone else's review to suggest that the book is one giant cliche is breathtakingly lame, even for someone with an ironically-titled blog. Also, if you'd have skimmed a few pages, you'd have known that the cover image isn't a reference to Los Angeles burning, it's a reference to the chapter devoted to the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego County, which annihilated an area greater than that destroyed by the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Best, Chris